Posts Tagged ‘Venom’

Stan Lee was my hero…

Begin Transmission..

When someone says the term Marvel Comics, my mind instantly goes to one name. Stan Lee. He was the ultimate pitchman. He made you believe that anyone could be a hero. When he spoke, people paid attention. His bombastic verbiage and his ability to speak were unmatched. His delivery was as masterful as any salesman, television.evangelist, or carnival barker. Anyone can sell a car, but when Stan Lee sold you something, you walked away believing that you had the best, most exciting car you ever drove. There is a section of comics culture that tries to dimisnish Stan’s contributions. Who created what? Was it all Jack Kirby? Was it Ditko? Fact is, no matter what the reality is, the single figure you associated with Marvel and their hero’s was Stan. He was the Walt Disney to the Disney company! The Steve Jobs to Apple. Stan made his characters much more than comic book fare.. he made them feel real.. he made them OUR heroes. Marvel with Stan at the helm was the peoples comics company, and our minds went to worlds we could not even imagine. This was the wonder of Stan Lee. His impact is as much alive today as ever before. His life’s work is on every TV, movies screen, toy shelf , video game, and merchandise stand you can see. Stan Lee created a cultural phenomenon, and his legacy is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Stan sowed the seeds of the biggest cinematic film series ever created, and it started as a result of Stan Lees’ masterful salesmanship. If you ever wondered how it began, pull up a seat as I tell you a tale of the beginnings of how we got here. 

Stan Lee was an aspiring writer who ended up working in the comics industry. Lee made his way from office flunky to editor in short order as his predasessors were either fired or quit leaving Stan the last man standing in the office, and he took his new position of authority dead serious. Stan found himself in a position where he was now dictating many creators who were many years his senior. The content produced was not creatively satisfying for Stan. As a writer himself, he knew the quality of output he was making was schlock, and his work doing romance or funny animal stories was leaving him creatively bankrupt. Stan was tired of working for Martin Goodmans comic book company and was planning his exit. As fate would have it Stan discussed his dismay with his wife Joan. She urged him to write one more story the way HE would have wanted to write it! 

Lee was open his entire career about wanting to be considered a serious author one who would write the next big American novel and comics were considered disposable entertainment, “kids stuff” that wasn’t considered high calibre professional works. When Joan suggested that he write a book “his” way …and…he did. 

Stan’s way…would become the Marvel Way, but no one knew it at the time. What even was the Marvel Way?  It didn’t exist, but Stan was about to make it up. Stan did something other companies at the time didn’t do. He grounded his heroes and stories with a sense of everyman reality. He just didn’t write a story of a man from another planet with unlimited powers and an indestructible perfect human. Stan saw fault in this. Superman, for example, was perfect. Many kids could never be Superman. Of course, with perfection comes story limitation. If you are writing about an invincible hero who is the strongest, fastest, and most good-looking guy out there, the story gets cold quickly. Where were the interesting flaws? Where were the real storytelling aspects real people could relate to?

Stan took the concept of the Everyman hero with real issues and problems and thrust them on paper as a dysfunctional four member super team where  nothing was perfect, but the stories were boundless. The team had relationship drama and infighting, and some characters battled with the idea of even being a hero in the first place. That creation was The Fantasic Four, and it was considered the day one creation point for modern Marvel writing and the launch pad for the Marvel Universe. His “last” comic book, written in collaboration with the brilliant co-creator Jack Kirby, was The Fantastic Four, which launched the Marvel Age of comics and sparked a steady stream of new concepts and characters, Thor, Black Panther, and The X-Men. Stan had a keen eye for the culture at the time and realized early on that they might translate easily to other media. Boy, would he be right! Stans vision for his heroes would be the starting point for how comic books’ transitioned from print to film and television, merchandise and beyond the scope of his wildest dreams but for our purposes we will focus on the very beginning of the tradition from the comics page to the small screen.

In 66, Lee contributed to Grantray-Lawrences The Marvel Super Heroes animated series while still working at Marvel in a multitude of roles such as editor, art director, and writer! Lees work on the shows was invaluable as he helped shape stories written ironically by him and authors and co creators  like Jack Kirby, Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, and more. even though Goodman negotiated the deal with Grantray-Lawrence Lee would be the one moving the various parts to get the projects green lighted and Marvels Superhero’s would no longer be relegated to the comic book page but now for the first time would be seen in living color and action on our TV screens! The seeds of the MCU were planted here..

Heroes included Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and Namor as the main characters of the series. Each character had their own miniseries or show that repurposed stories from recent Marvel comics.Some would say the “animation” was crude.I always loved the show. The fact that the cartoon looked just like a comic book gave it the charm that I loved! The producers literally took comics panel directly from the comics and literally particularly animated portions of the picture to show motion or action. The closest thing I can compare it to would be a modern motion comic.In order to give the impression of animation and some lip-syncing, the animation typically consisted of photocopied images taken directly from recent issues of the comics featuring the different characters, or even from early issues of The Avengers. While not technically groundbreaking from an animation standpoint, the fact remained that Marvel now became part of homes all across the nation. The competition was paying attention and producing cartoon fare of their own, but something was different. The mood was changing. Marvel not surprisingly won over devoted followers with the television series and  its iconic catchy theme songs for Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man had all of us singing along. 

1967 gave us the FANTASTIC FOUR animated series from Hanna Barbera Which heavily adapted Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four work. 

Characters like The Mole Man and Galactus debuted!  If you haven’t seen the show It featured an amazing episode detailing Dr. Doom’s origin story. Hanna Barbera with master artist Alex Toth reimagined concepts like the Skrulls and the Silver Surfer but the fact remained despite Lee not being directly involved many of the stories were based on the early Lee and Kirby Fantastic Four issues. 

Stan knew he had something here. This is when Marvels ultimate pitch man went to work and chased further applications for his characters and pushed forward for more..

Although not directly involved, Lee’s influence on the 1967 Hanna-Barbera Fantastic Four animated series could still be felt because of the material the creators adapted. Key antagonists from the episodes included The Mole Man and Galactus and Dr. Doom’s origin story received an entire episode. While they were reimagined by Hanna-Barbera and comics legend Alex Toth, the Skrulls and the Silver Surfer also made appearances. Many of the stories were based on the early Lee and Kirby Fantastic Four issues. 

Of course, then there was the grand daddy of them all the legendary Spider-Man series from 1967. Produced by Gantray Lawrence and later Kratnz films Spider-Man is considered Marvels most iconic early animation achievement. This show was in constant rotation at my house. It aired practically every day. It was a fixture on Saturday mornings in key time slots on Canadian television. It was a staple of Canadian early weekday mornings before school!

Spider-Man’s adventures were comfort food for me, and any episodes featuring members of the Sinister Six were always my favorites. From the simply irresistible theme song of the series to the outlandish tone and scope of the 6 showed fans what made Marvel different from its distinguished competition. Peter Parker Spider-Man real life identity battled taking care of his aging Aunt May while trying to hold down a job as a photographer for the Daily Bugle, the pressures of school, women and everything a real life teen of the era would go through. It lasted three very distinct seasons, each one particularly the third season wildly different in tone and budget. Spider-Man became the beloved signature hero of Marvel comics at that point and forever linked to Stan Lees’ career from that moment forward. With minor success in the animation department, Lee had visions that Hollywood would be their next stop. 

THE INCREDIBLE HULK, SPIDER-MAN, AND DR. STRANGE APPEAR ON TV IN THE 1970S. 

Stan’s ambitions took him outside of the office on a tour circuit. Whether it was speaking engagements at university’s, publicity events Stan was in full steam pitchman mode. Lee’s personality was the reason why Marvel landed in areas where you would never see comic book related fare. Stan was THE living and breathing symbol of Marvel comics, and he loved and soaked up that attention in pursuit of making this company more than a magazine with cool colors and pictures. Marvel invaded toy shelves. Marvel Blacklight posters adorned many kids’ walls, and the Mighty Marvel Marching Society was even spinning on vinyl on record players of the time. 

When Lee took over as publisher of Marvel Comics in 1972, he largely delegated writing and creative work to a new group of authors, illustrators, and editors. Lee found himself guiding the Marvel heroes through Hollywood as the characters started to emerge in the uncharted territory of live action, even though he continued to be involved in some creative aspects of the business, such as the daily Spider-Man comic strip.

All roads led to the first live action show for Marvel comics. The genesis for the MCU was here. The beginning of a multi-billion dollar media franchise began unsuspecting one winter evening, and the world was ready.  The Incredible Hulk made its television debut in November of 1977 with a two hour pilot airing on CBS. The show featured Lou Ferigno as Hulk and the incredible Bill Bixby as his alter ego Bruce Banner. The show was a ratings success and aired from November 4, 1977 –May 12, 1982.

“In the TV series, Dr. David Banner, a widowed physician and scientist who is presumed dead, travels across America under assumed names and finds himself in positions where he helps others in need despite his terrible secret: Following an accident that altered his cells, in times of extreme anger or stress, he transforms into a huge, savage, incredibly strong green-skinned humanoid, who has been named “the Hulk”. In his travels, Banner earns money by working temporary jobs while searching for a way to either control or cure his condition. All the while, he is obsessively pursued by a tabloid newspaper reporter, Jack McGee, who is convinced that the Hulk is a deadly menace whose exposure would enhance his career.”

Stan Lee was elated about the Hulks’ success! Lee himself had become larger than life. He was now being recognized in places outside of the comics bubble and was comics’ first version of a rock star and became a traveling media liason! Lee was great at one thing, selling an audience on whatever he was selling. Bombastic, sweet, energetic. He always presented a fun, uplifting persona and was a person you wanted to be around.

 He also stood for something. He believed in inclusion and peoples rights. He championed the voices of the common man, and that appeal made him larger than life.

His voice for me is what always sets the tone. The cadence, the inflection, and the delivery. Hearing Stan’s voice open, many of my childhood cartoon shows or VHS tapes were always like comfort food. He treated his Mighty Marvel Marching Society like a club you HAD to be in with him. It was the cool place to be! Marvel was cool because of Stan. He spoke literally to kids and teens of all ages and put their stories on the page.

You related to Stan and his characters because they were based in reality. Peter Parker had girlfriend issues…didn’t we all at one point! The Hulks Bruce Banner had an inner monster he had to control….like many of us. The Fantastic Four were a family that fought, broke up, lived lost, and loved together. Stan made us believe, and for those few minutes reading those comic pages, we were along for the ride and part of something special. 

Does it matter who created what? Who’s name is ahead of another for creating part of a character? Sure it does for some reasons but no one can contest that the reason that Marvels characters live forever on screens, phones, merchandise and in the modern lexicon is because Stan Lee invited us into that house and we grew up there and never wanted to move out!

Thank you Stan Lee, for allowing me to be a kid no matter what my age. Thank you Stan Lee, for giving me a playbook on how to deliver motivating and powerful speeches. Funny enough, when I tell stories to my kids, there is a part of me that steals Stan’s delivery everytime!!

Thank You Stan for creating a world where my family and I can spend together and create memories because that’s what it’s all about. 

Raise a glass to Stan Lee on his birthday. You will always be “The Man”..

Here’s to Stan..

Excelsior!!

Hey… I usually wrap up a “Till next time Satellite Subscriber’s”… which, of course, is ripped off of Stan’s method of assigning his readership a tagline, but I had to share some personal Stan related fare!!

My wife took this picture for me on the Hollywood Walk of Fame during a recent trip. Stan was one of one of the very short lists that I requested a picture of his star!!

During that very same trip, my wife also snapped this wonderful plaque from Disney Land California, and the words say it all.

For Christmas, I also got a few Stan Lee related items!! I finally got a fresh copy of How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way!!

Okay… now you can go!! Till next time, True Believers!!

For more Stan Lee related content, check out a few pieces written and created by a few friends of mine!

Between The Pages Blog: https://www.betweenthepagesblog.com/2022/12/face-it-tiger-you-just-hit-the-jackpot.html

Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog: http://davescomicheroes.blogspot.com/2022/12/stan-lee-100.html?m=1

W2M Network Podcasts: https://w2mnet.com/remembering-stan-lee-1922-2018/

https://w2mnet.com/trio-of-stan-lee-tales/

End Transmission…

 

So I have those butterflies again. It’s not often that after years of reading comics, blogging, podcasting or whatever your vice is that you get that fresh burst of inspiration. Today however amidst everything that is happening in the world I am so glad you joined us to step outside of our current situation and just for a moment, read something (hopefully) enjoyable and fun. If you didn’t know today is June 24th and its #SuperBlogTeamUp day! If you are unfamiliar with our work we are a group of like minded bloggers who get together 4 times a year to blog on a singular topic and put our own spin on that theme!! Today our Bombastic Blogging Brigade has chosen to discuss “EXPANDED UNIVERSE’S”. (Thanks to BTP of Between The Pages Blog for this topic!!) What is an Expanded Universe you say? Well I am glad you asked!! When you think of Expanded Universes many peoples minds instantly go to such high profile topics such as Star Trek or Star Wars (Yes we will be discussing Star Wars calm down!!) but what many may not know is that these franchises are only the tip of the iceberg for Universes that started in a certain medium such as movies, comics, novels, TV, you name it but grew in spite of itself to become a far reaching universe on to its own thus reaching many pockets and facets of modern pop culture!

 

Transmission Date: June 24th 2020

So on this day, June 24 2020, Super-Blog Team-Up explores Franchises with rich histories and fascinating expanded universes in various media from movies, to toys, television, novels, animation, and of course comic books just to name a few. These universes further a character, story line, or a whole world adding texture and new history to a property unleashing worlds of new ideas a concept’s. With some properties these universes advance the franchise forward giving their legions of fans fun new concepts to digest while other properties sink once bright ideas to mere corporate shells of themselves. Super-Blog Team-Up is BACK to explore some uncharted territory as we open up the Universal gateway to expansion. God save us all. So with all that subtext out of the way its great to be back at the helm of this blog the long dormant Superhero Satellite!! I have set Satellite coordinates back of course to the mid-1980’s to September of 1985 to be exact! Strap in tight Heroes, we are headed back to the place I wanna be…Back To The 80s!!

It was September of 1985 and this writer was a mere 11 years old and at that time was headed back to school for the fall season. Now as a kid that was not something to celebrate but being a young chap going to Horwood High the one thing that I did enjoy was getting home via bus everyday and sitting in anticipation of the after school cartoon block on ASN (Atlantic Satellite Network). It started at 4:30 pm daily and was known to feature such shows as Snorks, Turbo Teen, Bravestarr, Transformers, Robotech, Jem and The Holograms, Centurions and the topic of today’s Superhero Satellite M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand). Satellite!! Cue the music!

MASK animated SBTU

Every season ASN would change up its after school line up which only on very few occasions did it produce mixed results. Usually it was something mind blowing to my 11 year old self and I loved almost everything I was fed. It was destination TV! On this particular occasion I was treated to a show that was brand new to me called Mobile Armored Strike Kommand aka..M.A.S.K.!!

For those living in a cave the show itself centers around corporate millionaire industrialist named Matt Trakker who discovers a criminal organization known as the Vicious Evil Network of Mayem…yeah you guessed it that spells V.E.N.O.M.!! Seeing the threat that V.E.N.O.M. poses around the globe Trakker recruits a group of colleagues to create a strike force to combat the evil criminal element. He brands his new team M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Command) which is an amazing name, however V.E.N.O.M. will not be toppled easily. Luckily Matt Trakker has been secretly developing a series of seemingly ordinary military vehicles “Masked” as everyday Cars, trucks, vans, and planes but with incredible hidden transformation and weaponry designed entirely to combat the evils of V.E.N.O.M. Of course my first taste of M.A.S.K. was from THIS commercial!!

Transforming everything was all the rage!! My Brother and I grew up on all things 80s and we devoured Go-Bots our transforming robots of choice! We also loved G.I. Joe, Transformers, Masters Of The Universe, She-Ra, BraveStarr, Star Wars..you name it we dug it!! So I started seeing M.A.S.K. Toys on shelves in 1985 after being bombarded by toy commercial’s during my Saturday Morning cartoon watching binges! Being at the height of my Joe collecting I had to track down these wonderful toys. The TV show was quickly becoming a favorite of mine and that theme song was infectious!! You can still catch me singing it from time to time as a 45 year old man as my wife likes to remind me but I don’t care I love M.A.S.K. It would be a Christmas at the end of 1985 that the tree was lined with generation 1 of the toy-line! I got three M.A.S.K.toys that Christmas along with a play set that I though was simply amazing that we will discuss in detail! Lets just pull up the Satellite archives and ill show you the pieces that made up my collection!

The pride of my collection was the Thunder Hawk that came with Matt Trakker action figure. I was always a fan of the lead characters and when it comes to M.A.S.K. Trakker was my guy! The Thunder Hawk was so cool its doors lifted up to become its wings and it had blasters mounted to the sides of the doors!! On the road or in the air this flying car was enough to sell me on the entire line!! A good guy is not much use without someone to fight and M.A.S.K. had just what the evil Doctor ordered in Miles Mayhem!

The ultra-cool Switchblade Viper helicopter was the main ride for V.E.N.O.M. super-bad Miles Mayhem! This toy featured pop out wings to covert from Heli-mode with a hidden propeller to a full on jet! Its slick dark purple design was every thing a super-villain could want in a ride!

Then there’s the “Beast” of the collection!! M.A.S.K.’s RHINO was the crown jewel of all the vehicles for me. This one featured many points of transformation, The front grill launched forward to crush bad guys in its path. The dual smoke stacks we movable side cannons! The back “Sleeper’ section of the trucks cab opened up to become a full featured missile launching computer lab! If that wasn’t enough the back half of the truck separated to becomes its own separate all-terrain vehicle!! My Rhino came with another version of Matt Trakker and Alex Sector!! Originally the vehicle launched with Matt and another character Bruce Sato but I was not lucky enough to grab Mr. Sato!

Of course a couple of the other great vehicles that rounded out my collection purchased at a later date were the super mean Blue flaming vintage auto the glorious Hurricane complete with Hondo Maclean figure was a sure fire eye catcher!

Last but not least the Firefly Dune Buggy with driver Julio Lopez!! This awesome vehicle transformed from an all terrain Dune Buggy to super flying machine!! With one click of the back button the front of the buggy separated to create another flying machine that would compliment the Thunder Hawk perfectly.

Now if you know me you know that no action figure collection is worth its weight in salt with out a play set! Boulder Hill was just that!! This was the ultimate command center for my toy Masked Crusaders who always worked overtime fighting crime!

Boulder Hill moonlights as a cliff side gas station only to covert into to a full loaded weaponized operations base! Tops of gas tanks became cannons, the store sign opened up to reveal blasters. The mountain top launched a projectile boulder at intruders! The side walls opened up to reveal the inner command center and place to hide your favorite M.A.S.K. vehicle!

Of course I could go on all day about my M.A.S.K. Toys on to the point. From this beautiful collection spawned the M.A.S.K. Animated series!! As mentioned above the series debuted September 1985 and lasted little over a year ending production in November of 1986. The series despite lasting that short period of time managed to produce 75 episodes in during its run. The show was produced by animation powerhouse DIC and ICC Production’s and they brought this world of Kenner plastic toys to an all new level. Around this time another DIC cash cow had earned great reviews for young viewers when they launched Hasbro’s GI Joe cartoon series from 83-86 so these new action adventure stars were destined to be a huge hit that would carry on for generations after that right!!? Well sadly you would be wrong.

You know the old saying, size is everything!! One problem with the toy-line at the time was cross compatibility. Toy companies like Remco built a company around cross compatible toys from other IP’s that would play well with popular toys of the time. For example If G.I. Joe was red hot they released Sgt. Rock toys. Mattel’s Masters Of The Universe drew record sales in the early 80s and Remco launched the very similar Warlord line of toys which were the exact scale of the He-Man toy line. There was synergy. That didn’t happen with M.A.S.K. unfortunately despite several unsuccessful attempts. The popular 3 3/4 inch action figure size was the popular go-to size of G.I. Joe A Real American Hero series. M.A.S.K. figures and vehicles attempted to launch in a more reduced scale to mixed results. The basic premise of M.A.S.K. was genius. It came out during the very lucrative era when the G.I. Joe and Transformer toy lines dominated store shelves. The action adventure and transforming toy craze was at its peak so M.A.S.K. spoke to both genres. It had the recipe for success with amazing action adventure characters AND transforming vehicles how can you lose right?!! It was sure to be red hot and initially it WAS!! Then came the size problem. The original series one of the toys were ordinary looking vehicles that transformed to showcase weapons and armor but they were all scaled to fit the two inch figure sets meaning that your Joe’s or Star Wars toys could not play alongside M.A.S.K. without an incredible amount of imagination.

 

Other toy lines got in on the small scale market as well such as Hasbro’s 87s Air Raiders, a Sci-Fi based air battle based vehicle line with the M.A.S.K. compatible 2 inch action figures as well. Air Raiders toys were a great compliment to M.A.S.K. and heavily featured air based toys that were unique in design  from the average flying toys. Air Raiders was also backed by the Marvel comics STAR imprint. It seemed to be popular in my home town but literally vanished from toy shelves seemingly overnight.  Kenner would not be left out in the cold as they thought there was still money left untapped in the 2 inch market and they produced the Sky Commanders line as well which again did not hit the heights of popularity that G.I. Joe or the Transformers were still doing at store check out lanes despite being backed by a Hanna Barbera cartoon series of its own. Other toy lines tried the formula as well with similar failed results such as the cartoon backed Tyco Dino Riders line which tried to incorporate the M.A.S.K. 2 inch figure scale paired with large Dinosaur toys. To make matters worse in 1988 a Dino Riders show was even backed by the Marvel Action Universe block of cartoon show but lasted only 14 episodes as the toy-line suffered a similar fate despite heavy Saturday morning commercial rotation. Point of this story..size mattered back in the early to mid 80s and if you didn’t stand at certain height you were discount bin fodder.

M.A.S.K. by 87 was suffering as well despite the deluge of compatible toys in the market. By the third wave of M.A.S.K. toys the air was out of the sales of The Mobile Armored Strike Kommand. By the time 1987 was ushered in the TV Series had been cancelled. The story of the show itself was a weird one. As stated before M.A.S.K. aired a total of 75 episodes 65 of which were done in the first season and surprisingly a mere 10 for season 2! The show had even switched themes from the action adventure based G.I. Joe clone to a Racing show in season two. The toy line’s 3rd wave even reflected the shift to the racing element as they toys started to become enabled with pull back friction engines which made them move. Much of what we remember of M.A.S.K. on Television and on Toy-shelves were memories of season 1 of the cartoon and waves 1 and 2 of the toy line. Distribution levels of wave three were sparse across North America making that last U.S. wave of toys much rarer to find for collectors. Toy production DID however continue in international markets with some great toys and figure produced but don’t think for a minute that you can rush out and get these with out owning a bank somewhere.

I loved the M.A.S.K. toys as well as the animated series but one of the other piece of M.A.S.K. lore that many fans remember were DC’s comics based on the TV series! The original series began in a popular format at the time as a four issue mini series which admittedly was crude yet popular enough for DC to revisit. The original series was written by Michael Fleisher and Michael Chen on pencils. My biggest gripe with the series is that they didn’t put an all-star creative team on the book. It seemed doomed to failure but the popularity of the cartoon and toy line kept these books moving on store shelves. I was excited to see the title on the racks and managed to grab the first mini however part of me felt a little disappointment about the whole deal as Chen’s loose almost McFarlanesque style didn’t win me over. Little did I know DC had MORE M.A.S.K. in store for us..this time a monthly title was in the works!

 

The monthly series was EXACTLY what I wanted. Fleisher was back on the writers seat while art duties were handled by Curt Swan who I absolutely loved as one of my all time definitive Superman artist’s. He was backed by Kurt Schaffenberger inks and this time the package was much tighter! The pencils looked sharp and professional and the story was allowed to breath unlike in the mini series where they were trying to tell one story over 4 issues. The monthly allowed single issue adventures which saw MASK crusaders travel all over the world in all sorts of adventure and hi jinks. The monthly M.A.S.K. book felt more like the cartoon and had a more enjoyable vibe and believe me.. I was all in. I could not wait for each issue to hit the stands! The only problem was M.A.S.K. the overall property had changed. The television series had just wrapped up its meager second season which as mentioned above had only a mere 10 episodes that took the series in a new and decidedly unfortunate direction as an adventure racing show. VENOM decided to call a truce with the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand and to take their bitter feud to the race track. I am NOT making this up. To make matters worse the toy line had also slipped in popularity and distribution had moved across the pond where the TV series had legs in syndication. So as issue 1 debuted cover dated Feb. 1987 M.A.S.K. the property was for all intents and purposes dead. The kids had already moved on to the next big thing and yet DC proceeded with the first issue of its M.A.S.K. comic book despite a crumbling franchise in its wake.

 

DC’s M.A.S.K. lasted a mere 9 issues but with the M.A.S.K. property moved out of most mainstream cartoon line ups and into after school syndication time slots. At the time a third season of the animated series did not come to pass and as a result a decision was made abruptly to make issue nine its last issue.

For those wanting to know how the series sent our M.A.S.K. Comic book sent our heroes into the sunset we will break format and straight up do a poor mans comic book review! Our story begins in Istanbul where a group of radicals hold a airliner hostage but not before M.A.S.K. agents Bruce, Gloria and Ace pose as airline pilots and intervene on the flight and subdue the terrorists.

Meanwhile on the South Pacific seas Miles Mayhem and V.E.N.O.M. agents are on a boat and in search of a treasure beneath the sea. This is no ordinary treasure though as beneath the water lies the damaged robotic body of female samurai warrior JACANA who we met in issue 6. It is unknown what Miles wants with this robot but we are about to find out! JACANA was one of DC’s individual creations to dont waste a day on eBay looking for an action figure of our lethal femme fatale!

We head over the the Trakker Estate where M.A.S.K. leader Matt Trakker is getting dressed up for a big date. His son Scott and our favorite mobile robot companion T-Bob wonder about his relationship with a new love interest Audrey Isles who runs a non-profit organization set up to assist reformed ex-convicts get jobs. Scott warns his father not to run off and get married without his permission. RED FLAG Matt!! A person helping Ex-Cons to find “Work” hmmmmm…( Dont get excited..the series is canceled before Audrey is revealed as a V.E.N.O.M. agent!)

Meanwhile in V.E.N.O.M. Laboratories Miles Mayhem and his henchmen are fast at work rebuilding their secret find from beneath the ocean… JACANA.

JACANA as we discover was a product of an imprisoned Japanese Robotics engineer who created her to pose as his own flesh and blood daughter who was trained to seek revenge for his imprisonment and dispose of the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand. In her first comic book appearance she discovered that she was indeed not a real person but a programmed robot something that changed her mindset against M.A.S.K. It would be V.E.N.O.M. who would cause her to fall to her watery grave that is until they recovered her and wiped her memory clean of the revelation. JACANA was now once again an enemy of M.A.S.K. but now an agent of V.E.N.O.M!!

JACANA attacks just as Matt is in the middle of his date with Non-Profit friend of the criminals, Audrey! Of course when it comes to “BLOCKERS” a flying samurai robotic warrior female trying to end your lives definitely puts a damper on Matt’s late evening plans! Despite Matt using the Thunder Hawk to elude JACANA sadly finds his date night is OVER with a captial “O”..and not the good “O” either.

JACANA is not done. While Matt is calling up his M.A.S.K. friends to assist with the latest V.E.N.O.M. threat the robot abducts Matt’s new girlfriend and her son! Mayhem of course projects all the chaos and the abduction LIVE over the air so M.A.S.K. now knows the stakes are very high. Trakker loads up the team and the M.A.S.K. fleet of vehicles and heads to V.E.N.O.M  H.Q. where Miles Mayhem’s men are awaiting them in a brand new repurposed weapons factory. Once Matt and team arrive they immediately surrender as the terms of an agreement to have the hostages released. Mayhem, ever the man of his word turns the tables by locking the M.A.S.K. team and their hostages in a room and setting a timer to flood the room with radiation that would kill them in seconds. JACANA calls out Miles on his rouse noting that the hostages were supposed to be freed upon the delivery of the M.A.S.K. Crusaders. Mayhem laughs at how gullible JACANA is and has one of his henchmen shoot her. The bad guy’s flee leaving our heroes and an innocent mother and her son to perish in radiation!

With only seconds at their disposal Matt show’s JACANA, who was left behind to die as well, that she is indeed a robot built by her Father who did commit crimes and was jailed as a result. JACANA is shocked. She has been stabbed in the back by Miles Mayhem and decides to help the M.A.S.K. team escape. With the radiation beginning to pour in under a door JACANA leaps into action using her robotic strength to muscle the door closed to stop the radiation poisoning but while in the act she literally melts away to a pool of liquid metal while saving the team. JACANA gave her robotic “LIFE” to do one final act of bravery.

The issue ends (As well as the series) with the teams discovery of a fallen JACANA and the team while upset, rationalizes that she wasn’t really alive and just a robot..However Matt Trakker being the ever resilient leader, pontificates that JACANA loved the “Life” she had and that there was nothing more heroic than her sacrifice. Yes kids…”Thats One To Grow On!”

DC however seemingly pulled the plug because well…they had better things to do? No joke. The cancellation announcement came in the letter pages without warning. Mike Gold broke the news by saying basically thanks for writing in and for the suggestions but we are moving on! Mike Fleisher is STILL working on Warlord (Which he had always been at this time so this was nothing new), Curt Swan was also occupied with projects including an adaptation of Superman 4 (no laughter please..I can see you!!) and a prestige format project with John Byrne. Dont forget Mike Carlin.. cause he’s working on all three Superman monthly titles!! Yep…everyone is too busy to bother themselves with M.A.S.K.!!

 

For all its cheesiness I loved DC’s M.A.S.K. series. Despite only getting nine issues it was at that time the ONLY way to enjoy the franchise. By 1988 the lights went off completely on M.A.S.K. If you were lucky your video store may still of had the M.A.S.K. VHS tapes which were “Interesting” compilations of the show. Kideo Video were the main tape distributors stateside but the international versions is where the gold was found. M.A.S.K. The Movie was the most curious tape to hunt down as it edited together several episodes together to make a “Full Length Movie”. There was even a second M.A.S.K. film which combined episodes from the ill fated last season from the “Racing” era of the TV series. These would be he last remnants of M.A.S.K. that you could hunt down for many years, Fans like me clung on to anything I could find but it became impossible to find anything M.A.S.K. related in stores during the pre-eBay era. Those last episode were amazingly bad and such a sad way to end the series..but don’t take my word for it!! Watch it HERE!

MASK VHS

Then the lights went out on M.A.S.K. for more than 30 years this franchise laid dormant. There were a few fan sites established such as Matttrakker.com and the episodes of the show made its rounds on video services such as Youtube ,Daily Motion not to mention the Torrent universe. We did managed to get various collections of the cartoon on DVD but that was it. Hardcore collectors hunted down M.A.S.K. related merch on their favorite online collection sites and auctions. It was a gem lost in time that was only a faded memory but one that fans still had very fond recollections of. Rumors circulated that a M.A.S.K. live action film would be released but as fans anticipation went through the roof noise dampened as finding a suitable team to create the thing was apparently a hard task. It would not be until February 2020 when an announcement was made that M.A.S.K. had found a Paramount studios film had been green lighted and written by Bad Boys for Life Co-Writer Chris Bremner and F.Gary Gray was set to direct!!…and then a virus struck and blocked all things Hollywood and there we were.. back to the unknown again.

One glimmer of hope came from a comic’s company named IDW. This company had touted some of the world biggest fandom franchises such as G.I.Joe, Transformers, Micronauts, ROM, just to name a few! Some of these books were highly reviewed by certain segments of the fan base but myself I never acquired a taste for IDW’s interpretations of these properties. My issue was that what made these properties special was that they once belonged to and were interconnected to the Marvel and DC Comic’s Universes. It seemed there was more than a little magic lost without the Marvel Universe in the backdrop. Of course that’s one mans opinion as many of these books are highly revered. In 2016 IDW announced that M.A.S.K. would be returning to the comics page with an all new series from the company. M.A.S.K. was different than the other books I had listed in the sense that its original comic interpretation was produced by DC comics but it did not interplay with the DC Universe so there would not be any real loss when it came to storytelling switching companies. With all things considered I could not wait to see my M.A.S.K.Crusaders back on comics racks to revisit my old friends and read great all new adventures! What could go wrong? Then…THIS…

IDW took my anticipation and threw it in the garbage. Its time for me to be the old man on the lawn. Visually the characters and vehicles looked great!! Art was NOT the issue with this title. Its just not M.A.S.K…. at least not MY M.A.S.K. I know there was some controversy when they changed Matt Trakker into a Black man but honestly it was the updated story-line and changes to the concept that really sent me running far from this book. IDW promised a crossover with all their Toy properties converging in what should have been the ultimate fan boy dream and that Revolution Crossover fell flat as well. I couldn’t understand it. Making M.A.S.K. a part of G.I.Joe should have been cool right? Making M.A.S.K. more diverse was a great idea right?? (despite the fact that the original team was super diverse to start with..but that’s good right?) Sadly…it was a no for me. It had a M.A.S.K. logo and had people in suits and cars that were part of the original concept but it left me cold. Now I do not want to discourage anyone from buying the IDW incarnation of M.A.S.K. because once you remove my fan rage bias it IS in-fact a good book. So check it out and never mind this bitter old man. I was resigned to the fact MY M.A.S.K. was never coming back. There was a vocal segment of the fan base who thought so as well…but all was lost. That is until someone did something about it!! Now on to better things I would like you to meet a friend of mine…everyone meet Kerowack!

As I waved the white flag of surrender I resigned myself to the fact that M.A.S.K. is now being handled by the youth of the world and would never see its 1985 roots ever again….that is until one of my Twitter friends would give me EXACTLY what I wanted. @gaulergolf aka Kerowack as per his pen name. Now I had seen some of his work on twitter and I was impressed with his style and the fact he covered classic 80s toys. I saw some of his M.A.S.K. work he was doing and had to write him to tell him a couple of things, number one how good it was to see classic M.A.S.K. again! Then he hit me with a bomb shell. He had not only drawn the characters in classic M.A.S.K. style but was not trying to mirror the Cartoon series but instead his designs stayed faithful to the TOYS!! They were exactly like the damn toys!! The art was bright and it popped off the page at me. I got to know Kerowack over time and Brian as he is actually named is a very talented artist who I am profiling here for a reason. You see like me, Wack has a very distinct love for 80s toys and cartoons and wanted to see what he enjoyed as a kid back on the comic page. Sound familiar? Brian took it many steps further as he self authored not one…but TWO amazing M.A.S.K. mini series!! The old saying goes if you want a job done right you do it yourself and the proof is in the pudding! Introducing M.A.S.K. 85-86!!

If you haven’t read these amazing mini’s stop reading this article and read them!!

READ M.A.S.K. 85-86 HERE!!! CLICK THIS LINK!

Go on! Scram!! Still here? Very well then we will continue. M.A.S.K. 85 centers around the origin of the team and sticks to what we know just adding some layers to the already amazing story without changing anything! See what he did!! Kids..Wack told a good story without breaking the furniture! Amazing I know! What caught me so off guard with this was the art itself  is that as mention previously it stays on track with the exact visual of the toy-line. This guy is just winning points from me all the way around! First when I got to know Brian I commented to him how much I appreciated the toy specific visuals.

 

Look at the image above and tell me what you see? If you are a M.A.S.K. Toy fan you will see that Matt Trakkers uniform is exactly as it was on the toy! The Boulder Hill Gas Station below is taken directly from the play-set!! Now the centerpiece of the image..The ThunderHawk. Look at the coloring of the decals on the car! The checkers on the cars spoiler!! Those are my toys on the page!! Brian, just take my money wont you!! As great as M.A.S.K. 85 was our artist friend didn’t have that itch fully scratched as he mapped out a sequel which of course was M.A.S.K. 86!!

M.A.S.K. 86 is everything you would want from M.A.S.K.. This 3 part mini takes the team across the globe as Trakker trys to stop Miles from attaining a powerful item. There will be no spoilers but this one takes M.A.S.K. in an awesome direction you may not expect!! Bottom line what I will tell you is that these fan made books do a better job of showcasing old school M.A.S.K. than anything the big companies have done since DC! I am so excited to introduce you to the man responsible for bringing MY M.A.S.K. back from death and without further adieu I present a Super-Blog Team-Up first! Welcome to Q& A SBTU Style where I ask the hard hitting questions (Basically just stuff I wanted to know..lol. You are welcome.)

Well here we go! First of all Welcome to Super-Blog Team Up Sir! Tell our Satellite Heroes all about yourself!

WACK: My real name is Brian Gauler, but most people online know me as kero wack.  Its an old aol handle that I made when I was 19 years old because I was obsessed with the author Jack Kerouac.  Once I became a teacher, so many kids were finding my social media pages online that I went back to it.  When I put my work out there I figured more people would remember WACK than Gauler.  

I grew up in Long Island, NY.  Ive been drawing all of my life and was always making comics or cartoons based on either my favorite toy-lines or just things I made up (nothing has changed).  When I was younger, I wanted to be a comic artist and ended up graduating from the School of Visual Arts with a bachelors in Illustration and Cartooning.  While I was there, I was lucky enough to study under some of the greats.  Joe Orlando,Carmine Infantino and Jack Potter.  So many different styles really had me playing around with my own work to find what made me stand out.  I ended up interning at MTV on the show Daria and on the last day, was offered a job as a production assistant.  I ended up working on the final two seasons and feature length films for that show.  After we got cancelled, I don’t know why, but I was burnt out on creating art.  I went back to school and got a degree in education and I am currently teaching art at the high school I graduated from.  I’m married with two kids.

Aside from art, I binge watch the same five shows and try to golf as often as I can (even though I am lucky if I stay lower than 100).

How did you come to comics? 

WACK: I was obsessed with comics as a kid.  I don’t know when I started reading them, but I started looking at them as soon as I found my uncles old comics at my grandmas house.  Tons of 70s DC and early 80s Marvel.  I was obsessed with G.I. Joe , the Fantastic Four and the Justice League.  As an adult, I still lean DC, but my favorite comics involving superheroes are probably Watchmen and Jeff Loeb DC stuff.  Kirkman’s Invincible will never be topped though.  Its the ultimate superhero story.

Tell us about your journey to become an artist?

WACK: I always drew cartoons and toys.  That’s what I was obsessed with.  For a while I drew mostly sports icons, but always ended up making my own comics involving their exploits or making reenactments of famous games.  I was weird.

Did you create your own characters as a kid?

WACK: When I was in middle school, I had a whole stable of characters that I thought would be the future of image comics.  When I look back, some of them still have a chance and others are basically straight ripoffs of characters I was into.

Who are your artistic inspirations? 

WACK: As a kid, my inspirations were my art teachers and cartoons.  As I got into comics, I was obsessed with the same guys everybody I knew was. Mcfarlane, Jim Lee, Liefeld and those early image artists.  As an adult, I’m REALLY into Jack Kirby, Darwin Cooke, Doc Shaner, Ryan Ottley, and Mike Allred.  Tom Whalen is probably my favorite working artist today though.  His prints are basically what my basement consists of.

How would you describe your style?

WACK: I have tried to create a style that would let you know its me without seeing the signature.  I basically try to keep it simple like a classic 80s cartoon, but also with a hint of comic book detail and styling.

Describe your process and tools. 

WACK: I currently work on a Samsung tablet and use the Medibang app to do EVERYTHING.  I occasionally will draw the panels on paper, take a picture and clean it up with the digital pen. With the M.A.S.K. comics, I was literally holding the figures and posing them to get the outfits the way I wanted and would set the vehicles up like a still life. 

What is your best reference material?

WACK: My toys, myself and my wife.  I cant tell you how many times I ask my wife to pose her hand or take a picture of myself on the phone so I can use it as reference.  With the tablet, I see SO MANY artists just tracing photos and toys online and I tried that initially and everything looked stiff as a board.  So I basically keep my phone next to me and most of the pictures are of my wife’s hands or my toys.

You are a fan of Toys! Describe your history with Toy-lines and why do you use them in your art? 

WACK: If it came out from 1980-1987, I probably had something from the line.  I obviously use them in my art, because its practically all Ive drawn in 2020.

What Toy-lines did you have growing up?

WACK: M.A.S.K., Masters Of The Universe and G.I. Joe were clear favorites. Also I loved Kenner’s Super Powers collection and Mego super heroes.

 

If you could have one Toy Grail what would it be and why?

WACK: Ive owned basically every holy grail I ever wanted and sold most of them.  If I could choose ONE though, I’d have to say I own it and they are my Tom Servo and Crow T Robot prop replicas from MSt3K.

Describe your collection? 

WACK: My collection is NOW only vintage stuff with a few modern statues thrown in.  I cant collect new lines.  I binge on them and within three months I’m posting them on eBay.  They don’t hold the same feeling for me.

What are your favorite pieces in your collection?

WACK: I love every single M.A.S.K. toy I own. I love my Centurions.  My G.I. Joe….I feel like I love every one of them equally.  Put it this way, If I sold one M.A.S.K. figure, they would all go.  I wouldn’t be able to look at the rest without the missing one.  I’m not a completest, but I know exactly what I want.

Talk to me about your History with M.A.S.K.. 

WACK: Loved the cartoon.  Wondered why nobody else loved it as much as me and my brother did.  Kids were Transformers crazy and I didn’t even like them.  As a kid, Brad Turner was the man!

(Check out WACK’s own creation MASK-FORMERS combining our Mobile Armored Strike Command with Those Robots In Disguise!!)

Why did you choose M.A.S.K. to create comics for? 

WACK: I chose M.A.S.K. because its one of those properties that hasn’t gotten the motor running again.  I had the idea for M.A.S.K. 85 in my head YEARS ago.  I even posted about it on message boards with a synopsis of the plot and all.  One day I decided to challenge myself and put my work out there.  It had been years since I had drawn regularly.  I went in with the motto finished is better than perfect”.  So, I did finish 85, but its not perfect!

Why did you choose to do your own MASK books? Tell us about them. 

WACK:  M.A.S.K. 85 is my origin story for the team.  It doesn’t stray too far from what we know and just adds to it to give it more depth.  I always thought Matt’s brother Andy was a pivotal figure that connects Miles Mayhem and Matt Trakker and I wanted to show that.  I also found it fun to try to give each character a voice.  I based my designs entirely on the toy-line I was staring at on my shelf.  I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel.  Mask 85 suffers from my lack of familiarity with the technology, my rusty art and it was the first time I had put a comic together entirely by myself since high school.  I would LOVE to redraw it, but I’m busy doing a million things so I’m gonna wait on that.  But when people read it, I hate that they see the rushed version of my art.  I did like a page a day fully written and colored.  Even when I wasn’t happy, I just kept plugging along.  With 86, I took double the time to draw it and I think it shows.  Plus, I was much more comfortable with the tablet and knew what I was doing.

What have you brought to the MASK genre and how has been the reception to your work?

WACK: I think Ive been able to please fans by giving them what they want…classic M.A.S.K.!  I kept it VERY FAMILIAR with 85 and told a story I thought was unique.  85s story is solid, its the art that is rushed.  With 86, the art is what I want it to be and the story came together.  When I started I only had the ending in my head.  And I wrote to it.  86 is MUCH riskier as far as what I do to the characters, but I said M.A.S.K. 85 is for the fan base and M.A.S.K. 86 was for ME!  Lol..I knew killing off a bunch of favorite characters was a lot to digest, but surprisingly, I’ve gotten nothing but love!

What have you added to the M.A.S.K. expanded universe? 

WACK: Andy Trakker getting much more screen time?  The cold war as an impetus for the creation of the technology.  86 I go nuts, but it would all be spoilers.

What were your favorite MASK toys?

WACK: CONDOR. CONDOR. CONDOR…and Vampire.

Were you a fan of the 80s Cartoon? 

WACK: The best cartoon to me was M.A.S.K.. And it still holds up.  Have you ever tried to go back and watch a He-Man episode?  It’ll numb your brain!

Will there be more M.A.S.K. related comics to come?

WACK: I think I’m done with M.A.S.K. but I’m not done with comics.

What other properties may we see you do comics for??

WACK: If I ever dive back into a fan comic about an 80s cartoon its definitely the Bionic Six.  I have a seriously awesome origin story that is a little like 86…dark, but uplifting.

What other projects do you have in the works? 

WACK: I have two graphic novels I want to finish that have NOTHING to do with superheroes or cartoons.  One is a coming of age story about a boy who lives on an island and the other is about a family who bonds after the death of their father.  So I basically have attracted a little audience who likes my 80s cartoon art and now I’m gonna swerve the pickup and hope some hold on!

Where can we contact you and what else can we expect in 2020? 

WACK: 2020 will be TONS of 80s inspired cartoon art. And I even want to set up a shop for prints.(Ive been getting messages lately and its time to stop dragging my feet).  I’m also looking into creating baseball card packs that feature my art and call them Wack Packs.  I just need to find the right place to create them.  But, I’m sure if you follow @gaulergolf on twitter you will see new art daily.  Follow or don’t!  I’m gonna draw either way!

Thanks!!

 

Well, I certainly hope you guys and gals enjoyed that interview but one last thing before we head out into the sunset. How would YOU like to see yourself as a M.A.S.K. agent? Our good friend and yours, Kerowack is taking requests for commissions. Do you have what it takes to save the day as a M.A.S.K. Crusader?? Check out the tweet below and join the team!!

Well folks…I don’t know about you, but that’s a wrap! I sincerely hope you have enjoyed our trip back to 1985-86 and our visit with Brian! I am very glad to be back writing on this blog as I have missed doing so and of course I missed chatting with my readers. I hope I didn’t disappoint!

That’s all for now Heroes, lets return to our chambers as we have another secret mission in store the NEXT time Super-Blog Team-Up returns! Stay safe and be well..Oh and don’t forget SBTU doesn’t stop here!! Join our many other contributors on the links below!! That’s…One to Grow On!

Transmission Ended…

 

Super-Hero Satellite: M.A.S.K.: The Road To Revolution.

https://charltonhero.wordpress.com/2020/06/22/super-blog-team-up-presents-the-expanded-universe-of-m-a-s-k

 

Between The Pages Blog: Fantastic Forgotten Star Wars Characters

https://betweenthepagesblog.typepad.com/between-the-pages-blog/2020/06/super-blog-team-up-fantastic-star-wars-characters-that-youve-completely-forgotten.html

 

Comics Comics Comics – The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones

https://comicscomicscomics.blog/2020/06/24/super-blog-team-up-expanded-universe-the-further-adventures-of-indiana-jones/

 

Comic Reviews By Walt: SBTU – Expanded Universe: Aliens and Predator

https://comicreviewsbywalt.wordpress.com/?p=17474

 

Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog: Logan’s Run Marvel Movie Adaptation

https://davescomicheroes.blogspot.com/2020/06/logans-run-marvel-movie-adaptation.html

 

Crapbox Son Of Cthulhu: 2001: A Space Odyssey #3 & #6

https://crapboxofcthulhu.blogspot.com/2020/06/super-blog-team-up-expanded-universe.html

 

 

The Telltale Mind: Archie Andrews – Superstar

http://thetelltalemind.com/2020/06/24/archie-andrews-superstar/

 

Radulich In Broadcasting: Flash Gordon Universe

https://www.spreaker.com/episode/30676120

 

The Source Material Comics Podcast: TMNT/Ghostbusters

https://www.spreaker.com/episode/32535480

 

Unspoken Issues: Mad-Dog (Marvel Comics, 1992)

https://www.spreaker.com/episode/32550135

 

Bronze Age Babies: Seven Decades of Apes-mania, and We’re Afflicted! https://bronzeagebabies.blogspot.com/2020/06/super-blog-team-up-seven-decades-of.html

 

Echoes from the Satellite – Tales from the Forbidden Zone – The Pacing Place

https://echoesfromthesatellite.blogspot.com/2020/06/super-blog-team-up-planet-of-apes-tales.html

 

Black & White and Bronze Comics – Beast on the Planet of the Apes Review https://blackwhitebronzecomics.blogspot.com/2020/06/super-blog-team-up-beast-on-planet-of.html

 

 

The Daily Rios – Little Shop of Horrors

http://thedailyrios.com/

Coming Soon




Lost N Comics Youtube – Expanding the Medium: Motion/Audio Comics

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJXEjtBJ-mkUVVaA5oOFNlA/videos



Pop Culture Retrorama: The Phantom Universe

https://popcultureretrorama.com/2020/06/24/super-blog-team-up-the-phantom-expanded-universe/

 

Cavalcade of Awesome – Jumper Universe

https://blog.paxholley.net/

COMING SOON

 

MichaelMay.Online: Treasure Island Universe

https://www.michaelmay.online/2020/06/treasure-island.html



DC In The 80s: The TSR Universe

http://www.dcinthe80s.com/2020/06/when-tsr-imprint-had-its-own-line-of.html